Populations of all species of sawfish have been depleted worldwide, and sawfish are now absent from much of their historic range. Much of the historic sawfish capture and encounter data does not provide information useful for species identification, and so cannot be used to reconstruct the historic ranges of the different species. For a long time, these data were also not easily accessible, as they were not digitised. Thus historic populations and distribution ranges of the
different species could have been underestimated. Here, we examine historical newspaper articles (n ¼ 237) from the Australian National Library’s online database ‘Trove’, that were found by searching for the generic term ‘sawfish’.
Articles were examined for information that could be relevant to sawfish biology and distribution, as outlined in the IUCN’s Sawfish Conservation Strategy, such as date of capture, circumstance of capture, location, animals’ weight and length, and potential species identifiers. One of the articles is presented in detail as it outlines a capture of Pristis pristis outside of the currently described range of this species, by over 800 km. This evidence highlights the need for a global examination of historical print resources, which use generic terminology to report sawfish encounters. Examination of global news resources may help provide greater understanding of the full historic range of sawfishes, and allow a more accurate estimation of areas in which they no longer occur.